Published: 25th April 2020
Meet the mentally challenged Kerala woman who stitched 1000 masks and gave it to Shailaja Teacher
Raji Radhakrishnan handed over the masks to the Kerala Health Minister, two days back. This is her story
It was only a few months ago that 30-year-old Raji Radhakrishnan learnt how to stitch and operate a sewing machine. The special school that she had gone to had trained her in it. However, little did her mother Prabha Unni know how much her mentally challenged daughter would end up helping others during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. On April 23, Raji, along with her mother, had handed over more than 1,000 cloth masks that they made to the Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja.
"We appreciate Raji's effort & encourage people to come forward and help us make masks by following directions of Health Dept," the minister tweeted, along with a photograph of Raji's. A social worker, Prabha tells us how she's been in the forefront, distributing food to the differently-abled in Thiruvananthapuram and masks to the authorities. "I was all set to start the construction of a rehabilitation centre for differently-abled girls across the state. The work was supposed to begin on April 27, but that was when the lockdown got implemented," says Prabha. "But then, I knew that I had a responsibility to fulfil. I started distributing food and stitching masks," she says.
She tells us how Raji would assist her in stitching the sides of the masks. "She usually helps me when I ask her, but in return, she asks me for money. But this time, for some reason, she said that she doesn't want a penny. Now her brain isn't developed fully to understand how deadly the virus is and how bad the situation is right now. But, this was a surprise and it did make me happy," she says, adding that Raji is quite fast when it comes to stitching.
Prabha initially donated 50 masks to the nearby police station and 50 to a nearby Ayurvedic hospital, which treats a lot of mentally challenged children. "Later, I was supposed to give around a few masks to the Kerala State Handicapped Persons Welfare Corporation, when the chairman suggested that we give it to the ministry directly," she says.
Impressed by the way Shailaja Teacher is handling the pandemic. Prabha says, "She is such an inspiration. Despite going through such a tough time, she was really calm and listened to us. She was very humble and motherly," she says. She also tells us how Raji initially refused to pose for a photograph with the Minister. "When Teacher asked her to look at the camera, she said that the photograph will make her 'less glamorous'. Teacher could not stop laughing upon hearing this," she laughs at the thought of it.